1) How many condominium sales have you done in the past 24 months?
Most REALTORS® prefer to market and sell single family detached homes. Why? Condominiums like Woodcroft involve much more work and expenses for less commission! For that reason, most Realtors “dabble” in condominiums and consider them a necessary evil of the business. Since they would rather focus their efforts on their preferred market of single family homes, they don’t spend much time developing marketing tools and skills for the condominium business.
Does it matter that a REALTOR® doesn’t specialize in marketing condominiums? If they can sell a house, isn’t selling a condominium more or less the same thing? The answer is NO! Since condominium living has become so prevalent in the past decade, marketing this lifestyle has also become more specialized. REALTORS® who devote most of their time and efforts to this segment of the market often possess more product knowledge and employ marketing tools that maximize your chance of achieving the highest sale price. It only makes sense – if someone specializes in condominiums and devotes most of their time and resources to improving their service, who is better qualified to handle your business?
2) How many Woodcroft Listings or Sales have you done in the past 24 months?
In this age of specialized marketing there are REALTORS® who have made the decision to focus on one specific market within the condominium marketplace. These REALTORS® work in their market niche everyday and develop highly specialized marketing tools and knowledge of their marketplace. The more Woodcroft listings or sales a REALTOR® has done in the past two years, the more experience and market knowledge they can bring to the table when marketing your suite. Values vary widely depending on building, renovations, views, sun exposure and other factors. All of this can have major impact on your final selling price. For the best chance at achieving the highest sale price in the shortest time, consider hiring a Woodcroft specialist.
3) How many current condominium or Woodcroft listings do you have right now?
Having several Woodcroft listings along with yours to market at the same time does more than just prove that your REALTOR® is active in condominium marketing. In the case of Woodcroft, it means that buyers considering another listing could be steered toward yours more easily. Since many initial contacts with buyers result in them buying something other than what they first expressed an interest in, this complimentary aspect of marketing can really assist you in selling your suite. Sometimes referred to as “critical mass” marketing, it simply means that the more Woodcroft listings your REALTOR® is marketing, the more draw from the buying public and the agents who represent them. This extra draw can mean more showings and help you get a higher sales price.
4) How much Internet presence do you have that promotes the Woodcroft complex and your Woodcroft listings?
The buying public today does not want to be “sold” they want to be empowered with knowledge and make their own decisions. Every REALTOR today should have a website that does more than simply “post” your listing on the Net. If this is all that their website does for you, it is similar to pinning your listing onto a bulletin board at the local community centre. This posted listing does not educate the potential buyer to any great degree. Buyers want a source of information that they can access at a time that is convenient to them and allows them to remain anonymous until they are ready to contact a REALTOR®. A website that contains informative material about the Woodcroft complex as well as listings to view is vital for maximum success with today’s buyer and the REALTOR® who will represent them. So it’s not just about educating the buyer, we have to educate their REALTOR® as well! Most REALTOR websites are simply expanded “business cards” that often contain too much “brag and boast” content about the REALTOR® rather than educational content. Take the time to review the websites of any REALTOR® you are thinking of listing with. You should be able to find them easily by entering the REALTOR® name into Google. If you can’t easily find their website on page one, any prospective buyer of your suite will have the same difficulty! For an even tougher test, enter the word “Woodcroft” or “Woodcroft Estates” into Google and see how many REALTOR® websites comes up on page one.
5) How many of your listings have a Virtual Tour posted on the Internet?
One of the most effective marketing tools on the Net is the Virtual Tour. Statistics tell us that only about 20% of REALTORS® use them! Most listing agents are content to use still photos and will only add a Virtual Tour if the Seller insists on it. This is especially true for condominium listings. Why? The simple answer is cost. Since the commissions on a condominium are normally far less than a single family home, many REALTORS® try to cut back on their marketing costs. Is this fair to you as a condominium owner?
Another more surprising reason why virtual tours aren’t being used more often is the REALTOR® doesn’t believe that Virtual Tours are effective. They think that the Virtual Tour is a “gimmick” that buyers don’t value. Nothing could be further from the truth. Buyers in all price ranges appreciate Virtual Tours since it enables them to get a much better feeling about the property before they actually view it. Since buyers want to empower themselves with information, the more visual that information is, the more effective it is. There are many cases of homes selling because of Virtual Tours. There are even situations where the Buyer wrote an offer on a condominium without actually seeing the suite! With this kind of result, how can anyone say that Virtual Tours are not effective?
Still photos are the “old” way of marketing on the Net, there is nothing unique about them. A listing with a Virtual Tour stands out from the crowd and is an almost irresistible invitation to a buyer to click and view. You can prove this to yourself with a little test. Go to www.REALTOR.ca and perform a search for condominiums in North Vancouver. After drilling down through several screens, scroll down the list and note how few of these listings have a Virtual Tour. Many have still photos but even those listings seem to blend in with all the others. The few listings with Virtual Tours have something different and are more likely to be reviewed because they stand out. If you want maximum exposure on the Net, insist on a Virtual Tour.
6) How does your performance compare to the average REALTOR® in the North Shore marketplace?
It’s always an interesting experiment to view the local Real Estate newspapers and see how many REALTORS® claim to be “Number 1” or a “Top Agent” in their marketplace. What does this really mean and can they prove it? Having a bigger ad could mean they are advertising listings from other REALTORS® within their own company.
Before you hire any REALTOR® to market your Woodcroft suite, ask to see statistics or comparison graphs of their performance vs. the average agent in their marketplace. This information can be derived from the statistics provided by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. While time consuming for the REALTOR® to prepare, it is valuable information for the condominium owner to review before hiring that REALTOR®. A good comparison will include the number of days on market, percentage of listings sold, list price vs. sell price ratio and number of listings sold in the year. Why is this information important to you? It can mean more money in your pocket!
The number of days on market is a comparison of how long it took the REALTOR® to sell their listings compared with the average. If the average REALTOR® took 40 days to sell and your REALTOR took 62 days, you might want to investigate this further. Does this REALTOR® list too high and then have to reduce the listing price in order to get a sale? If the REALTOR® you are thinking of hiring sells in 10 days vs. the average of 40 days, there could be a concern that your REALTOR® may be listing at too low of a price. Since the market has changed since 2008, a good REALTOR® should be averaging approximately 30 - 60 days in this area.
Percentage of listings sold simply shows how many listings your REALTOR® sold in the past year vs. the number of listings he or she signed up. Do they have a low percentage indicating a high number of expired or cancelled listings? Each of these indicates a Seller who did not achieve their goal of a successful sale. With the busy market of the past few years, a good REALTOR® should have an 80% or higher rating in this area. If the REALTOR® you are thinking of hiring has a lower percentage due to an excessive amount of expired or cancelled listings, you should be cautious. Do they list at too high of a price just to get the listing? Do they fail to live up to the promises of their marketing plan resulting in Sellers who cancel because they are unhappy with their service?
List price vs. sell price ratio is one of the most important, if not THE most important part of the analysis. How close to the listing price does this REALTOR® obtain when the listing sells compared to the average? If the average is 98% and the REALTOR® you are considering hiring achieves 99.5% that could represent thousands of extra dollars in your pocket! On a $400,000 sale that could mean an extra $6,000.00!
With the busy market of the past few years, a good listing REALTOR® should score at least 1% more than the average. This translates to a percentage score of 98 to 99% of listing price. If the REALTOR® you are thinking of hiring scores less than the average you should be cautious. This could indicate a practise of listing at too high a price or the possibility of weak negotiation skills. A less than average percentage coupled with a high amount of cancelled or expired listings should be a big concern. If they will not provide you with this data, you should insist that they do BEFORE signing the listing.
The number of listings sold in a year is a good indicator of how much time the REALTOR® devotes to marketing and selling listings like yours. You are looking for a REALTOR® who is significantly above the average in this area. Why? Many REALTORS® work more with buyers than sellers. If most of their focus is on buyers, they often don’t spend the time and invest in the resources necessary to develop the listing side of their business. While they may be great at finding you your next new home, they may NOT be the best REALTOR® to hire to list and sell your present one! In the case of Woodcroft, if they list very few Woodcroft suites and seem to work mostly with buyers, you should consider hiring a stronger listing REALTOR® who specializes in the complex.
7) Do you have a regular Newsletter program that promotes my Woodcroft suite
and brings buyers to you to help sell my suite?
This will be a “no” answer from most REALTORS®. Having a regular, informative newsletter is something offered by REALTORS® who are willing to specialize. The financial cost and time commitment to a niche market like Woodcroft makes no sense to a REALTOR® who considers his market area to be the entire North Shore. It makes even less sense if they are more interested in selling detached single family homes! Most REALTORS® will promise that they will send out “Just Listed” cards once you hire them. This one time mailing may attract attention but the failure rate for this mail piece is extremely high. Most recipients sort their mail into the “A” pile and the “B” pile. Just listed cards invariably end up in the “B” pile along with the other junk mail! The life of a “Just Listed” card is often measured in the few seconds it takes to throw it into the recycling bin. Why? Unless the recipient is immediately interested in buying a suite right now, they have no use for the material. A regular, informative newsletter is completely different. Since the recipient receives it often, they tend to remember the mailing piece and the name of the sender. As time goes on, they become more interested in exploring the newsletter. If they find the content informative and valuable, they may begin to keep and read the newsletter when it arrives. Some will even look forward to receiving it! A section in this newsletter that promotes your suite is getting much more exposure in this manner than one could ever achieve with a “Just Listed” card. The more exposure your listing REALTOR® can offer you, the better your chances of selling at a higher price!
8) How important are holding Open Houses to your marketing plan for my suite?
Most REALTORS® place a lot of emphasis on having Open Houses as a necessary part of marketing your suite. It is one of the traditional methods of marketing that has become one of those “must do” items for many Sellers. There are two types of Opens that are targeted at completely separate groups. The first is the MLS Open that is generally for REALTORS® only so that they can preview the property when it first comes on the market. The second is the public Open House that is usually held on Sundays during the hours of 2:00 to 4:00 pm.
One of the reasons why REALTOR® often stress the importance of having Opens is that they haven’t told the Seller the REAL reason why Opens are so important. It has very little to do with actually selling the suite that is being held Open! According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), your odds of having your suite sold at an Open are a paltry 7%. So with that low rate of success, what is the real reason behind having an Open? The simple answer is that the Open helps the REALTOR® pick up new buyer clients who they can then direct to other properties! Put another way, it isn’t about selling your suite; it’s a useful tool for your REALTOR® to find more clients.
Something else to consider for a Woodcroft owner is the very low response to Opens in the complex. For a single family home, the response in the last few years has been huge for a Sunday Open. It is not uncommon to hear reports of 20 or more groups going through in a two hour period. A similar number of REALTORS® attending the MLS Open is also common. The situation with Woodcroft is completely different. A “good” Open is likely to average 4 groups! There are times when it drops to only 1 or 2 attendees. The MLS Open has similar results.
Why are Opens so poorly attended in Woodcroft? The reason Opens work outside of the complex is spontaneity. People driving by see a sign, simply park their car and walk in. Opens in Woodcroft require planning and commitment. Since Fullerton Avenue is not a through street, people have to make a deliberate decision to go to the complex. They then have to tell security precisely where they are going and then find the Opens. Since the Woodcroft complex does not allow directional arrows to be placed on the common property, REALTORS® have to restrict themselves to a car topper open sign only. If someone coming into Woodcroft is not familiar with the complex, they can get confused as to where they need to go. In short, we haven’t made it easy for people to attend Opens in the Woodcroft complex.
The reason most REALTORS® don’t attend the MLS opens has more to do with their area of market interest. If they are like most REALTORS® who consider condominiums as a necessary evil, they will not attend unless they have a specific buyer for Woodcroft. There is also the pervasive attitude in the industry that “if you’ve seen one condo you’ve seen them all”. Why attend to build up your market knowledge of condos when you’d rather view the new detached single family homes on tour? The advent of the 360 degree Virtual Tour has also made it less of a necessity. Using a virtual tour, most REALTORS® can get enough of a feel for your Woodcroft suite to make a decision whether it is right for a specific client.
The last item to consider about open houses for the public is the issue regarding security. When a REALTOR® brings a client to your suite for a viewing, there is a relationship between the two parties. They know their client’s name and contact information. The REALTOR® escorts the client through and watches what they do. They are in control of the situation. The likelihood of something going missing from your suite is very small. Contrast this to an Open where there is no control over who attends and when. There is NO relationship between the REALTOR and the person attending the Open. While efforts are made to identify people it is difficult and often people are reluctant to give out their name and contact information. If several groups show up at the same time, the REALTOR® holding the open can be overwhelmed and not be able to watch everything that the attendees are doing. So far it is rare on the North Shore to have thefts from Opens but it can and does happen.
With all this in mind, do you really need to do Opens on your Woodcroft suite? Is it going to affect my final selling price or increase the time it takes to sell? The answer is NO! If the REALTOR® you are considering is adamant that they want to do them, especially on a frequent basis, you should be cautious. You should be looking at their entire marketing system and ensuring that the emphasis is on the more productive tools that actually bring results. Far more serious buyers will be viewing your suite through the MLS system, a regular newsletter program and Internet marketing tools like the 360 degree Virtual Tours. There should not be an emphasis on Open Houses.
9) How many testimonials can you provide from satisfied Woodcroft Sellers from the past 24 months?
One of the most important questions to ask before hiring any REALTOR® to market your Woodcroft suite is: “What has this Agent done for others and are they happy with the results?” The number of sales successfully closed is only an indicator of the volume of business, not the quality! A good listing REALTOR® should be able to produce a number of testimonials from happy clients who were willing to express their gratitude in writing. These recommendations are invaluable to you as you consider who to hire as your listing REALTOR®.
While you are reviewing these testimonials, pay special attention to the ones that are clearly from Woodcroft Sellers! These should be identified by the appropriate suite and building address. Remember that condominium marketing is a specialized area of Real Estate so the more positive testimonials the REALTOR® can provide, the more comfort you can have with choosing them to market your suite. Your ideal candidate is one who not only specializes in marketing condominium properties but also has chosen to focus on the Woodcroft complex. The ideal combination is a REALTOR® who successfully markets a large amount of Woodcroft suites each year and has the corresponding healthy amount of written testimonials from satisfied Woodcroft Sellers.
10) Are you a full time REALTOR® or are you working in the business part time?
This is a critical question to ask any REALTOR® you are thinking of hiring to market your suite. Sellers should be aware that it is now perfectly legal to work full or part time in another profession and be a “part time” REALTOR®!
Until recently, a REALTOR® had to make a full time commitment to this industry. While there was always a percentage of agents who worked at other jobs, the numbers were relatively few which meant Sellers could be reasonably sure that the REALTOR® they hired was a full time professional. If any REALTOR® was reported to the Real Estate Council that they were working in another occupation, the offending REALTOR® would face disciplinary penalties. The whole concept behind this restriction was protection of the public.
Now with a part time commitment to this industry perfectly legal, Sellers need to be aware that they could be dealing with a part timer who is “dabbling” in the Real Estate business. The question to ask yourself is: “Am I comfortable with a part timer?”
Who is best qualified to evaluate your suite and market it for the highest possible price? Can a “part timer” devote the same amount of time and effort as someone who has committed full time to this business? Is a part timer following the market trends as diligently as someone who works full time?
A full time professional REALTOR® works as many as 60 – 80 hours a week to service their client’s needs and to stay current with the changes to the marketplace. They make significant investments in marketing tools and techniques to constantly improve their service to the public. They are committed to this business. A “part timer” cannot compete with a full time professional REALTOR® for overall quality of service to the public.
Would you be comfortable hiring a part time financial planner to manage your retirement savings? For many Sellers, their real estate holdings form the largest part of their net worth. If you wouldn’t hire a part time financial planner to manage your retirement RSP, doesn’t it make sense to hire a full time professional REALTOR® to market what could be your largest financial asset? Before you sign that listing contract, make sure you ask the tough question: “Are you full or part time?”
© Marc Haslam 2009